Disasters & Accidents

Afghans struggle to rebuild lives 100 days after devastating Herat earthquakes

Kabul, Jan 15 (EFE).- Survivors are grappling to piece together their lives 100 days after a devastating series of earthquakes flattened many villages in western Herat province of Afghanistan in October.

The Oct. 7 catastrophe and the many aftershocks claimed nearly 1,500 lives, as thousands lost their houses in the impoverished country, with the world remaining wary of dealing with the Taliban government.

The harsh winter has exacerbated conditions for survivors, with many still living in tents or sleeping in the open, facing freezing temperatures.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) warned Monday that over 96,000 children have been affected, experiencing respiratory illnesses and other health concerns due to the severe weather.

Despite efforts to provide temporary relief, the basic needs are covered only temporarily, and the situation calls for long-term solutions.

Unicef communication and advocacy chief Daniel Timme told EFE that the series of quakes destroyed 21,500 houses in Herat. Most of the affected have received tents since then.

“But the temperature drops below zero at night, and living in the tents is very difficult and causes respiratory diseases, especially in children,” Timme said.

Tented health facilities have been converted into more permanent structures. However, the health situation remains vulnerable, with many children suffering from diseases due to inadequate hygiene and water quality.

The quake and aftershocks destroyed 78 percent of the medical centers in the affected area. “This is a problem, especially because the health situation at the moment is extremely vulnerable,” the Unicef spokesperson said.

The agency called “for greater support for over 96,000 children affected in the aftermath as a crippling winter grips the country.”

Fran Equiza, the UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan, said the suffering continued even 100 days after the earthquakes. “Children are still trying to cope with the loss and trauma. Schools and health centers, upon which children depend, are damaged beyond repair.”

In the 100 days since the earthquakes, the UN agency has treated almost 90,000 medical cases, primarily affecting women and children, with malnutrition remaining a pressing issue among earthquake survivors as many families lack sufficient and balanced food.

Timme emphasized the need for sustainable solutions, stressing the need to ensure community health.

“We cannot continue carrying water there with the tankers every day. We need to invest in water sanitation and structures that are durable. We need to rehabilitate the help centers in solid buildings, and the same is true for the schools,” Timme said.

The sub-zero temperatures have hampered efforts to reconstruct essential infrastructure, including the over 60 schools destroyed by the earthquake. The UN agency has established 61 temporary learning spaces and 61 child-friendly spaces, benefiting almost 3,400 children, with over half being girls. EFE

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